“The Cleveland Assassin” Chris Lozano (8-1) is taking no prisoners in his quest for glory. In just over two years as a professional mixed martial artist, Lozano has already made quite a name for himself, knocking out seven of his nine opponents and not only competing in Bellator’s Season 4 Welterweight Tournament, but also in serving as the headliner of the first fight card in history to be aired on MTV2, Bellator 35. That bout saw Lozano take on the promotion’s most recent former 170lbs. champion, “Cyborg” Lyman Good (11-2), in a hard fought three-round battle that rendered “The Cleveland Assassin” on the losing end for the first time in his career. Lozano then followed up his stint in Bellator with a pair of consecutive victories in the North American Allied Fight Series promotion, after which he was invited to return to the Bellator cage for the Season 5 Welterweight Tournament. Come September 10, “The Cleveland Assassin” will step into the national spotlight yet again, this time facing off with fellow knockout artist Brent Weedman (18-6) in the Bellator Season 5 Welterweight Tournament quarter-finals. MMA Gospel Editor-in-Chief Mallory Mejia got the opportunity to sit down with the rising star Lozano and discuss his evolving fight game, his mindset going into one of the most important match-ups of his career thus far, and what he plans on doing differently this time around.
First off, congratulations on your return to the Bellator Welterweight Tournament. Your most recent appearance in the Bellator cage at the Bellator Season 4 Welterweight Tournament Quarter-Finals in March saw you in a three-round battle with “Cyborg” Lyman Good in which you really put it to the promotion’s former 170lbs. champ, though the judges ultimately ruled in Good’s favor and handed you the first and only loss of your career. What, if anything, did you learn from that experience?
From the fight with Lyman Good, I learned a lot about myself and how to handle the big stage. I learned my talents are matched by others at this level, and the only thing that separates contenders from champions is preparation. There are so many elements that go into being ready for a fight of that magnitude, and now that I understand those things, I have learned that I am ready and able to be a champion on this level.
Your tweets following the match-up were rather inspiring in that you took the defeat with grace and poise, and vowed to improve your skills. To what do you attribute such a positive reaction and mindset?
I attribute my mindset after my loss to Lyman Good as a testament to the life I have lived. Life has taught me that if we spend more time getting up than staying down, then sooner or later you can breaks life’s will to knock you down. Much like a fight, there are moments when others buckle and quit. Those are the moments champions are separated from the rest. I could’ve spent the next part of my life sulking after defeat, but I didn’t. I got right back in the gym and vowed to improve by leaps and bounds. And I have done just that.
As many expected, you came back strong following your loss to Lyman Good, racking up another pair of wins for your nearly flawless record. Do you feel as though your fight against “Cyborg” came into play in your subsequent fights? Has it in any way changed how you train and prepare for future opponents?
The magnitude of the fight with Lyman has given me a calmness in the cage I never had before. Before the fight with Cyborg, fights were like being in a tornado. Everything was flying around like crazy, and when the dust settled I was the winner. After being the first main event ever on MTV and being Bellator’s first ever main event in the biggest fight of the promotion’s existence, all other fights are no longer in a tornado. I see everything now. The fight with Lyman has given me the experience I needed to not just compete with the best, but to beat the best.
You earned the very first submission victory of your career at NAAFS: Fight Nite in the Flats 7 against Derek Smith in June. Tell us about that.
Derek Smith was a tough opponent, but I knew I was the better fighter. I told myself I could beat him anywhere because of my recent improvements and training. When the fight went to the ground, I had the confidence to finish him there, and I did.
You’re known for being a stand-and-bang kind of guy that puts away his opponents via technical knockout or knockout. Did you consciously take a different approach to the fight against Smith, or was it more a matter of doing what you had to do at the moment to secure the win?
I would have loved to knock Derek Smith out, but the fight went to the ground. My favorite part about fighting is the KO because there are no questions about who the winner is. The knockout is beautiful and my preferred way to finish. But in MMA, you must expect the unexpected. I expect to knock people out because the Lord has blessed me with that ability, but I am very prepared to finish people on the ground as well.
Do you expect to show off your ground skills more in your future fights?
I think I’m going to have to. Sooner or later people will realize I’m very dangerous on my feet, and they will try to test my other skills. That’s when I will get my chance to show the complete fighter I am.
The majority of your match-ups have taken place in your native state of Ohio where there seems to be a rather strong “Cleveland Assassin” following. How do you think those fights compare to those in somewhat unfamiliar territory?
It’s awesome to have family, friends, and fans surrounding you in such stressful moments, but a fight is a fight. To be a great fighter you have to show up every time, no matter the situation. You cannot be great only when you’re comfortable. You have to be great when you’re uncomfortable as well.
This time around in the Bellator Welterweight Tournament, you’re facing Brent Weedman, who, in the same vein as your most recent Bellator opponent Lyman Good, comparatively has quite a bit more professional experience in the cage. Does that present a greater challenge for you? How do you prepare for that?
Brent definitely has more experience, but I have fought some very tough opposition in my short career. I believe every one of those fights has prepared me for a different aspect of the “next level”. From Jason Dent’s Muay Thai and relentless style, [Yoshihiro] Yoshida’s Olympic-level Judo and ground game, to Lyman Good’s gritty, tough, hard-nosed fight style and larger size at welterweight, all of my previous fights have brought me up to speed and prepared me for this fight with Brent Weedman.
Brent Weedman much like yourself has earned the bulk of his wins via TKO and is regarded as a young up-and-coming fighter with dangerous striking. How do you expect the night to play out when the two of you face off at Bellator 49 next month?
Brent puts on an amazing fight every time. He’s a warrior and you’ll never get anything less from him. The same goes for me. Neither of us will ever quit. When you put two guys like that in the same cage and tell them fight for your career and lives, expect a war.
Are there any areas in which you think Weedman might pose a threat?
Brent poses a threat in all areas. He is a well-rounded fighter, very hard to finish, and a fierce competitor. He is a threat for any man in the world in the welterweight division.
Aside from yourself and Brent Weedman, “The Phenom” Douglas Lima, Steve Carl, “The Handler” Dan Hornbuckle, Luis Santos, “Killa B” Ben Saunders, and “The Maverick” Chris Cisneros are all participating in the latest Bellator Welterweight Tournament starting September 10. Any predictions on who you think will advance to the semi-finals?
I haven’t given it much thought. I did that last tournament and focused on the wrong things, as if I had already won my quarter-final fight. I just know whoever I see in the semi-finals I will be ready for because I have prepared for everyone and anyone. But, for the heck of it, my predictions for the semi-final round are Ben Saunders, Dan Hornbuckle, Douglas Lima, and myself of course.
Last season you were itching to fight “The Thoroughbred” Jay Hieron. Is there anyone in particular you would really like to take on in Season 5?
Not really. Everyone in this tournament seem to be solid guys. Jay Hieron carried himself as if he was better than the rest of us. Maybe he deserved that right, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone in this tournament is pretty cool. A few more than others, but there isn’t anyone I have an unprofessional disliking for.
Since fighting in one of the world’s largest MMA promotions courtesy of Bellator, how have life and your aspirations as a mixed martial artist changed, if at all?
Being a part of Bellator has made me realize how amazing things can be if you’re successful in this sport. I fought for the passion and to express myself. I fought before solely because of the love of the sport. After seeing the belts, the money, the way you can live and the things you can have, now I fight for those things as well. I’m fighting for the love and to secure the things we all yearn for.
One year from now, August 2012 – where do you expect to see yourself?
One year from now I expect to see myself preparing for a title defense while looking back and realizing that I did it and dreams are possible.
Is there anything you would like to add, or any sponsors you would like to thank?
I would like to thank Strong Style Martial Arts for giving me the tools and discipline needed to be ready for such opportunities. I would like to thank DOM Fight Gear, Bas Rutten MMA Systems, John P. Lennon, Intimidation MMA, www.combatcardboard.com, Kodiak Chiropractic Cream, MMA Gospel, and my family, friends, and fans for all the support and love you have shown me throughout my career. Last but not least, I want to thank God for all the blessings He has given to me. Please follow me on Twitter.
Tune in to MTV2 on Saturday, September 10 at 9pm ET to see Chris Lozano continue his journey toward championship glory.